Submission guidelines remind me of courts' local rules, which vary widely depending on the region. In these local rules, judges dictate everything from preferred fonts and mandatory filing dates to page margins and limits. Sound familiar?
The literary agent submission guidelines in the alternate universe are much clearer than those that exist in reality. Below are some of the more common ones:
1. Don't bother us unless we've asked to be bothered. No, really, we mean it.
2. Don't bother more than one of us at the same agency at the same time.
3. Don't expect any feedback from us if we don't like your submission.
4. Tell us everything we need to know about your book in one paragraph or less, and it better be smokin' hot.
5. Tell us everything we need to know about you in five words or less. If we like your work, we'll just Google you.
6. Don't ever, ever, ever send an attachment with your query, because if you do, we'll send the bomb squad to your house and blow up your laptop for sending one (we know where you live because you put your address in the query).
7. Even though our manuscript wish lists identify a certain genre, that doesn't mean we actually want to see that genre.
8. Don't tell us you've written the next Game of Thrones, Hunger Games, Star Wars, Outlander, or Twilight, because you haven't. You know it, and we know it.
9. Do read our blogs, tweets, agency profiles, interviews, childhood diaries, letters to Santa, and high school yearbook comments to find out what we like, and what we're like.
10. Don't call us. We'll call you (but probably not).
11. Tell us your word count and genre, and whether you've sent your work to our competitors.
12. Compare your work to books by authors we've published, but don't think or say that your work is better, smarter, more creative, or more or better anything.
13. Submit your query via e-mail in the style of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Non-conforming submissions will be pillaged and burned.
14. Forget everything above, and read my personal submission guidelines because I want a query submitted my way. Just like burgers are made at that burger joint that competes with the Golden Arches.
See, there's nothing to it. In the alternate universe, just follow the yellow brick road.